EMBAs discover business and economic growth potential in Africa

In two groups, 110 participants from two Executive MBA programmes at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) explored business in South Africa in July. Experiential learning is part of every MBA programme at RSM. This week-long study trip included first-hand experience of business and societal matters, and lectures about issues such as South Africa’s global competitiveness, black economic empowerment and business strategies for Africa.

A group of 62 participants of RSM’s Executive MBA and Global OneMBA programmes arrived in Johannesburg on 6 July 2014. They visited beer and soft drink company SABMiller, vehicle financer SA Taxi Finance and entertainment company MultiChoice. In addition, they visited several local businesses and NGOs in Alexandra, which is one of Johannesburg’s townships and one of the poorest urban areas in South Africa. Some of the organisations visited were Hospice and Rehabilitation Centre at Alex, McMitchell café, Cross Roads Internet Café, community NGO Garden of Hope, and shoe repair store Cobbler.

RSM’s South African partner school Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg organised lectures about local and global topics, such as Africa as an emerging market, HIV/AIDS implications for doing business in South Africa, entrepreneurship at the bottom of the pyramid and South Africa’s global competitiveness.

Economic growth potential

Nigerian EMBA participant Tamkara Adun says the study trip was “a valuable time of learning and discovery” and a broadening experience. “I emerged with a better understanding of the dynamics of doing business in Africa,” she said, adding that the class room sessions made her “better able to appreciate the enormous potential for economic growth that is Africa”. She said the company project was a huge highlight. “Via consultations with the business owner, we were able to understand his business, recognise the challenges his business faced and appreciate the uniqueness of his business.”

Executive MBAs network during study trip in South AfricaDuring the same week, 48 Executive MBA participants travelled to Cape Town to investigate business practices at one of South Africa’s largest supermarket chain companies Pick ‘n Pay, life assurance company Old Mutual Finance, family-run winery Villiera Wines, retail organisation PEP, and beverage company SABMiller. The students also visited four organisations in Cape Town’s vibrant townships: spinach-based food producer Espinaca Innovations, cleaning and recycling organisation Ilima Green Solutions, internet café and educational facilitator Sbiya Technologies, and mobile phone money transfer organisation Zoona.

South African business reality

“We had the opportunity to take a glance at not only the South African business reality but also at the human reality,” says Brazilian-American EMBA student Duna Uribe. “Even though I come from an emerging economy myself and have been quite exposed to social struggles, I found it fascinating to see how South Africa is dealing with all of it: politics, economics, health, and diverse society and languages,” she said.

Visiting South African townships during the study trip provided the students the opportunity to better understand the economic ecosystem at the base of the pyramid, deconstruct some of the conventional thinking about poverty and low-income communities, and discover how innovative business models impact the lives of people in low-income communities. Through the learning journey, the students explored the value chains of different economic sectors, and met stakeholders along these value chains.

The Graduate School of Business in Cape Town hosted lectures, which were organised by RSM alumna Marjolijn Dijksterhuis, director of MEA Global. The presentation topics included the impact of HIV/AIDS on business in South Africa, black economic empowerment, and rethinking business for South Africa’s low income mass market.

To experience South Africa’s role in regional and global business and to facilitate working in multi-cultural contexts, RSM organises EMBA study trips to Cape Town and Johannesburg each year. In addition to first-hand experience of business and society issues, participants are encouraged to practise societal leadership and expand their peer network by working closely in an unfamiliar and challenging environment and meeting RSM alumni and partner school students.

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is ranked among Europe’s top 10 business schools for education and among the top three for research. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. RSM also has offices in the Amsterdam Zuidas business district and in Taipei, Taiwan.

For more information on RSM or on this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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